November 29, 2022

Should we go to Court or Arbitration to settle our Divorce?

When your relationship breaks down there is a lot to decide and it can be difficult to agree on everything.

If you have different views on what is fair, disputes about finances, property and children can continue for months or even years.

If you are unable to reach a compromise through other means, you might consider Family Arbitration as an alternative to Divorce Court.

This blog outlines the process of Divorce Arbitration, highlighting some of the key advantages and disadvantages to help you decide whether to consider it as an option.

What is Family Arbitration?

Arbitration is effectively a private court hearing where you select your own Judge, known as an Arbitrator.

You can choose which arbitrator you wish to use based on their areas of expertise. If you are unable to agree on the arbitrator, there is a process which enables an arbitrator to be appointed for you

During arbitration you each present your case to the Arbitrator. As with a Court hearing, you can speak on your own behalf, but it is normal for a Solicitor or Barrister to present the arguments for you.

Unlike a Court hearing, arbitration is tailored entirely to your needs, so you can set the timetable and choose the venue (physical or virtual). In some cases, Arbitration can be completed entirely on paper.

Is Arbitration Legally Binding?

Before the process can begin, you must both sign an agreement to uphold the arbitrator’s decision (sometimes called an ‘award’) and turn it into a court order. This makes it legally binding and enforceable in law.

Is Arbitration Right for Me?

If you are unable to reach a fair divorce settlement through other means, it is worth considering Family Arbitration as an alternative to Court because:

  • You can choose an arbitrator with expertise relevant to your circumstances, rather than having a Judge appointed who may not have the same level of knowledge in the specific aspects of family law.
  • Your chosen arbitrator will hear your case from start to finish, ensuring consistency, which is often not possible in the court system.
  • The process is flexible and you can effectively decide on the speed at which it progresses, rather than your timetable being set by the Court.
  • You can choose where the arbitration will be heard, the arbitrator’s office or a solicitor’s office, which offers a more relaxed experience than Court.
  • You will receive the written award or determination from the arbitrator within 28 days, but often sooner. It is not uncommon to wait several weeks or sometimes months for a court to hand down judgment.
  • The decision is private and confidential, it will never be published.

What are the Disadvantages of Arbitration?

As with all processes, what is considered an advantage by one person may be a disadvantage to another.  A key point to note is that there are limited grounds to appeal the Arbitrator’s decision if you are unhappy with it.

You should also be aware that the Arbitrator will charge a fee and it is normal to split that between you.  Although this may seem like a large expense, Arbitration is usually less costly than court litigation, which can be littered with delays that increase costs.

Legal Advice

We have highlighted Arbitration as an effective alternative for those who would otherwise go to Court, but there are other Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) options available.  If you wish to explore whether arbitration, or another method of ADR, may be helpful in your case please get in touch with us at Allard Bailey Family Law.

To book a consultation or telephone appointment with one of our team, please call 020 7993 2936 or complete the Contact Form and we will get in touch with you.

Filed Under: Insight